DePaul University College of LAS > Academics > Latin American and Latino Studies > About > Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

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Rosa Ortiz, 2003

 
How did the Latin American and Latino Studies Program impact your educational experience at DePaul?
I came to DePaul very eager to learn more about my culture and history. One example, I joined DALE my first trimester and coordinated an event to discuss the difference between the term Hispanic vs. Latino. With that in mind, the LST program was a great surprise that truly enhanced my educational experience. While DePaul’s student organizations always hosted excellent programming, the LST program presented the opportunity for actual classes. I felt fortunate to learn more about Mexico, other Latin American countries and the impact Latinos had on the US and the world. My interest was so strong I eventually realized I took enough classes to qualify for a minor! To date one of  the things I miss most about DePaul is the great programming and the interesting courses LST continues to sponsor and offer.

What are some of your major accomplishments since graduation?
I have remained busy since I graduated from DePaul. At DePaul, I joined Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc. Since graduating, I have been elected as the Vice President of Alumnae for the sorority’s National Board of Directors. I was a founding member of a local alumnae association for my sorority. I obtained a paralegal certificate from Loyola University Chicago. In August 2011, I left Chicago for Detroit to begin law school. My minor in LST gave me background and understanding to help some of the clients in the immigration law clinic. I graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in May 2014. I moved back to Chicago and sat for the July Illinois bar exam. I passed on the first try and was admitted as an attorney in Illinois in November.

What are you doing now?
I'm currently an associate attorney at Chicago Immigration Advocates Law Offices. After many years, my dream of becoming an immigration attorney finally came true. I have only been with my firm for over a month, but the work is very exciting and I can’t wait to make my mark within the community.

Do you have any advice for current and prospective LST students?
I would tell students to seriously consider a major or minor in Latin American and Latino Studies Program. Everyone who goes through the program will have an advantage due to the growing Latino population in the US. Knowing about where the Latino population came from and how they view themselves and the world will be of value in this changing country. The knowledge you gain throughout your studies can also enhance your personal and professional life. I started with a goal to educate myself about my heritage and was able to turn that into a professional asset. Though I am done with school for a while, I am seriously considering going back to school to take a few LST courses. I know the program has evolved since I left DePaul and am excited to learn about the new courses offered.

Mariana Calderón, 2006

 
How did the Latin American and Latino Studies Program impact your educational experience at DePaul?

I liked a lot of subjects going into Depaul and the Latin American and Latino Studies Program helped focus those interests. I knew that I liked Anthropology and History but thise subjects are both incredibly vast. LST provided me with structure for my studies. My LST advisor helped me select classes that would satisfy multiple requirements for my majors as well as my interests. For example, I did a short-term study abroad in El Salvador and was able to have all of the course count towards some part of my degree. That study abroad also peaked my interest in the role of governments in our lives. In the end, I double majored in LST and Anthropology and had taken enough courses for a double minor in Spanish and History. I know that wouldn't have been possible if I had approached each major and minor separately.

What are some of your major accomplishments since graduation?

After graduating from DePaul, I joined Teach For America is Las Vegas and taught kindergarten. Vegas had a very large and very diverse Latino population and my classroom reflected that. I felt like LST helped me better understand other Latinos and relate to my families. During this time, I also received my Master's of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Teaching furthered my interest in the government and public policy.  After I finished my commitment, I decided to go to grad school (again) and received Master's of Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago. I used the same approach I learned in LST to grad school and found ways to incorporate education and cultural issues into my policy studies. I also use this tactic in my professional  life since I work on a variety of issues. Currently, I'm on the Board of Directors for a non-profit Child Development Center and I'm a math tutor at a local public school.

What are you doing now?

I'm a Senior Analyst at the Government Accountability Office in our Forensic Audits and Investigative Service division.  With my team, I identify fraud risks in government programs such as Medicaid and help ensure that government programs are working for those that need them most. Ultimately,  we produce reports with recommendation to the audited agencies aimed at improving the programs. To do these reports, we conduct an extensive and critical review of agency policies and documents;  interview officials and third-parties, when appropriate; and perform data analysis such as data mining. It's a lot like writing a really involved term paper.

I'm a firm believer that our government should look like the people it governs and sadly this isn't the case. Our agency is fairly diverse but I still end up being the only Latina in the room more times than not. I feel that it's essential for different perspectives to represented in government programs. I try my best to add that voice in our fraud discussions.

Do you have any advice for current and prospective LST students?

Use LST as guide for branching out in your studies. You'll be surprised how well your interests or a major in LST can fit into other disciplines. Almost every class will have some kind of self-directed project or paper and there's nothing stopping you from picking an LST-related topic. So take a statistics course or an economics course and relate it back to your interests in LST. College is all about learning critical thinking skills and being able to convey what you've done to others verbally and in writing. These skills are essential in your future career, so learn them in a subject area you're passionate about.